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What is a Drag Chain?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 17, 2024

Sometimes referred to as energy chains or cable carriers, drag chains are simple guides that are used to encompass different types of hoses and cables. A drag chain helps to minimize the wear and tear on the hose or cable it protects, while also helping to ease the degree of tangle that can sometimes occur with extended lengths of hose. As such, the chain can also be seen as a safety device.

The first examples of the drag chain emerged during the decade of the 1950’s. These early designs were normally constructed of some type of metal, with steel being the metal of choice. Configurations of different types made it possible for the drag chain to be incorporated into all types of pneumatic and hydraulic hose designs, a feature that proved to help increase the efficiency of hoses that were used in different types of automated machinery, especially in manufacturing facilities. Over the years, the steel drag chain has been eclipsed by chains constructed with the use of polypropylene or other flexible plastics that are capable of providing protection to the hose without inhibiting flexibility.

It is not unusual for the design of a drag chain to allow the protected hose or cable to be bent in one direction, without negatively impacting the function of the hose. For example, the hoses used to direct a steady flow of air for cleaning textile machinery can easily be bent slightly to make it possible to direct the hose nozzle into tight spaces where off-fly from cotton and other fabric blends tend to collect. The action of the chain helps to prevent the hose itself from cracking or otherwise becoming weakened from the bending, thus ensuring the air flow is at optimum levels at all times. The function of the chain also helps to ensure that the operator is not exposed to an uncontrolled burst of air due to the collapse of the hose.

The drag chain can be used to protect hoses and cables in a variety of different settings. Drag conveyor chains are often used in automated car washes, as well as in production facilities like an oil rig. Cranes, forklifts, and other types of tools used in construction also make use of hoses and cables protected with drag chains. Because the chain can be used with hoses that require a flow of liquids, gases, electrical current, or even data flow, there is virtually no setting where a drag chain cannot prove helpful.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By MsClean — On Aug 01, 2011

@goldensky - I use a drag chain invention for my kayak. I inserted a large linked chain into an old bicycle intertube then wrapped it with some really wide electrical tape.

The chain has to be wrapped good to reduce noise and prevent damage to other things. For the anchor line I used a cheap retractable dog leash.

It's perfect for pulling in and out the line. The leash is attached to the frame of my seat with a small dog collar.

I've only been out with it a few times but it's worked nicely so far. If the water gets too rapid I can just unclip it and move on or if need be, just cut the cord. It's not that expensive or difficult to replace.

By goldensky — On Jul 31, 2011

I purchased an old kayak for weekend fishing trips that's in desperate need of an anchor. I've heard of people making their own drag chain for this purpose. Any ideas on how they do it?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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